Savants like to arrange their stars
and push their poets into piles:
marble-misers who assign the jars
according to the artists’ styles.
They line them in their fusty den
when they deem an era’s past,
and deign to burp them now and then,
but work to invent a ‘new’ cast.

Classicists have since ceased to be,
and Rhyme is out of fashion now,
but she still moves me like the sea
rocks a sun-soaked splintered scow.
All good men have come from men,
like oaks which out the leafmeal sprout;
what once was old appears again:
It is an everlasting fount.



“I think we are in rats’ alley
Where the dead men lost their bones,” T.S. Eliot, –“The Wasteland”–

“You shouldn’t pick T.S. Eliot’s bones,” Callistus

Let us go out now to the rats’ alley
and clean up the collection of debris:
of old and naily and forgotten wood,
engulfed in burdock, pokeweed, but still good,
beneath the barn-bridge where a cat sits still:
prepared to pounce, to gorge, to get her fill.
There’s a snake skin; there’s some barbéd wire;
behind the tank there is a tractor tire.
And we will go and we will build something
that has some form, that takes some tinkering.
We’ll carve with wood our fathers used before
neglected briefly, but remembered more
poignantly because we all had lost it
in the Modernist’s junkyard deposit.



“Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down,” Robert Frost

When you were young you cheated like a dog.
You were ambitious and a smidgen vain.
You wanted to compete as if the god
of coaching need not call your golden name.
Like other cheaters, you made up the rules.
Man was God, you said; you’d make something ‘new.’
(How original?) The bench was for fools
who’d never win a 1st Place ribbon blue.
You played alone on lineless, netless court.
You always ‘won;’ but, hey, what do you know?
You ultimately saw this wasn’t sport,
but shirking putting time in— O no no!
You’ve got to ride the bench and learn the law
before they cheer your number and Hoorah!


Satirical Skit

“I want to create something new,” she said.
“Why should I read the poets who are dead?”

He’d seen it all; but this had topped the rest:
Her “poem” that she called her “Nothingness.”
It was quite nothing; she had got that right.
The piece of paper was completely white.
He looked bewildered. It was Stein reborn?
Or was it Ezra? He grew more forlorn.

“It’s called ‘erasure.’ Hack everything out.
Leave it for the reader to think about.
It’s new, you see. Don’t you want to be new?
It’s the only thing a poet can do…”

It was his fault; he should have stayed at home.
The modern gallery had made him groan.
He thought of leaving; then he thought again.
He wrote upon her paper with his pen:

“My kind of ‘new’ is how a snowflake is,
how every orchid’s different from all orchises.”

She looked perturbed; he vandalized her work.
But he kept talking; and he even smirked:

“To me a poem has to look like one.
What’s new beneath the ancient, jaded sun?
It doesn’t have to rhyme, I’ll give you that.
But it is fuller than an empty vat
which is, I’m sorry, all that you have here.
From plagiarism we must all steer clear.
You copy Reinhardt. Have you heard of him?
O darn you haven’t. That is quite the sin.
I wrote a critique sort of way back when.
It goes like this…” He started with his pen:

“The ‘Painting’s’ not ‘Abstract;’ why do they stare?
It’s not a painting but a canvas square.
(Forget your pan when you go change your oil:
You’ll paint like Reinhardt on the clayey soil.)
Content that’s black and blank negates itself.
Contentless books should be left on the shelf.
Be new in content, if not new in form;
you need a globe in which to gird your storm.”

She grabbed her things, leaving her “Nothing” there.
But now it was at least fuller than air.


Reid McGrath is a poet living in the Hudson Valley of New York.

Featured Image: “Saint Rosalie interceding for the Plague-stricken of Palermo,” 1624, by Anthony Van Dyck

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3 Responses

  1. Cadwel E. Bruise

    Reid McGrath

    Your poems are full of raw energy,
    linguistic power, and remarkable,
    strong phrases that spill over everywhere.
    Your art, like rock, is hard and durable;
    its truths are blunt; and Winslow Homer is
    a kindrid spirit in that bleak landscape.
    Your world, indeed, at times, is onerous,
    like karst escarpments, easy to be scraped.
    It is sincere as mountains, and as staid.
    Your lines are sober, somber, serious,
    like rushing rivers, not easy to wade;
    they run the gamut, calm to furious.
    Your verbal structures seem like mighty walls,
    or waterfalls of hardy howls and bawls.

  2. Sally Cook

    What I have read of your work is without exception, well written. Your subjects are always relevant, and I love your satire. You’re a first class poet.

    So great to find your work!
    Sally Cook


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